They're Ripley In Reverse Douglas Coupland crafts a mystery of celebrity


From Time Magazine (January 17, 2000)

by James Poniewozik

It's better to be a fake nobody than a real somebody. Contra Tom Ripley, this is the conclusion reached by the two lead characters in Miss Wyoming (Pantheon; 311 pages; $23), Douglas Coupland 's witty and hyper discourse on celebrity. Like much of his previous work (Generation X, Microserfs), it's a brilliant set of riffs that passes as a novel with mixed success.

Susan Colgate and John Johnson are two former Hollywood luminaries, on the verge of becoming trivia questions, who share a history of disappearing. She, a faded sitcom actress and the erstwhile beauty queen of the title, once emerged unscathed from a plane crash, taking advantage of her freak escape to go into temporary hiding and watch coverage of her "death" on tabloid TV ("A small-town girl makes it big and then small again"). He, a producer of Bruckheimeresque action flicks (e.g., Bel Air PI) starring guns, aliens and lame one-liners, once walked away--literally--from his life and possessions, wandering the strip-mall wilderness, Dumpster diving for burgers.

Having shakily returned to some semblance of their former lives, the reluctant celebs pass in the night (actually, at lunch at the Ivy), where John falls in love with Susan as a delayed result of the modern equivalent of an angelic visitation: while he was hospitalized, her staticky face mingled with his fevered dreams as one of her reruns played on TV.

John's febrile love and the mystery of Susan's subsequent (willing? unwilling?) redisappearance drive the novel's rather implausible plot, which relies too much on coincidence. But for those willing to surrender themselves to Coupland's inventively of-the- minute language ("You two are the most drag-and-click people I've ever met") and his ability to see beauty in the discards of our consumer and pop culture, there's plenty here to allow a pattern of static to resolve itself into the face of love.